First Seve, then Chema and, now, at last, Sergio. The third Spaniard to win a green jacket at Augusta National came good just when we were all beginning to think that he’d blown his chances of ever winning a major and was destined to be a nearly man, a very, very good but never a great. At least now he’s a very, very good with a major title to his name and contentment in his heart.
As the Masters became a tussle between Sergio and Justin, head to head, toe to toe, mano a mano in the final pairing, I was torn. I didn’t want either of them to lose, especially as the round wore on and they both produced some terrific stuff as the tension increased. I thought the spirit of Seve, who would have been 60 last Sunday, might see in Sergio’s birdie putt on the 72nd hole, the perfect end to a compelling contest but, no, they had to have another go and Justin’s drive into the trees proved too much of a handicap for the Englishman.The Rose family accepted defeat with their usual grace, hugging Sergio and hiding their own disappointment as they took pleasure in his delight. The Spaniard’s fiancee Angela Akins, an American, gave him plenty of space to savour the moment, only joining him as he was leaving the green. All in all, a very emotional occasion and so far I haven’t come across a single English person who wasn’t happy that he’d won his major at last.
Even Spain, the land of football and tennis, has perked up and noticed golf again. And as a bonus Jon Rahm, the young man who did so well in his first Masters, reminds quite a few old-timers of Seve, with his ambition and self-belief and that je ne sais quoi (sorry, wrong lingo) called charisma. Seve was a force of nature and we all loved him, even though we were not blind to his faults. He could be moody, mean, bad-tempered, stubborn but we’d forgive him almost everything because of his genius and his humanity. And, of course, we didn’t have to live with him.
At a tournament in Japan many years ago, I admired a sleeveless cardi Seve was wearing. It was his own label, worn in Japan and unlike most of the stuff he wore in Europe. A couple of days later he gave it to me, looked at Dai, my rather rotund husband, shrugged, smiled and said, “I don’t have anything to fit you.” Killer pause: “Except, perhaps, socks.” Collapse of all parties, stout and otherwise.If you saw Seve in his prime, or anywhere near it, you had to love him. He was electrifying, he made staid, old golf exciting, explosive, entertaining. And he and his contemporaries – all born within a year of each other – made European golf a force in the world. Sandy Lyle, Bernhard Langer, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, all major winners inspired by the passion of a mercurial Spaniard.
Jose Maria Olazabal was inspired by Seve too, partnered him in the Ryder Cup and between them they helped inspire generations of Spanish and European golfers. Seve didn’t just belong to Spain, he was revered in Britain and Ireland, where they knew about golf and he belonged to Europe and golf everywhere. Olly, like Seve, became Europe’s Ryder Cup captain and a two-time winner of the Masters. He and Dai, who wasn’t quite in the same league as a player but had the game in his DNA, clicked and this photograph, taken when Olly was about to come back from a career-threatening injury, is a reminder of that connection. There’s an inscription, faded now, that reads: “To my dear friend Day [sic], with all my respect and appreciation, J M Olazabal.”